Professional athletics writ large have long been primarily marketed to men. Now, sports teams are finally waking up to female fans' substantial purchasing power, and how they need to adapt their existing approaches to access this widely untapped customer segment.
Sports in Society
According to sports psychologists, organized athletics have historically played a role in society often comparable to organized religion. Not only is the vocabulary similar (devotion, faith, dedication, prayer, suffering, celebration etc.), but there is repetitive chanting and singing amongst fans that is often promoted as a religious experience. Sports rituals often includes wearing team colors and marking assets with flags, icons and mascots, similar to the iconography and identity associated with religious communities. And similar to how many religious sects traditionally focused exclusively on men, sports were a male-only activity for thousands of years. In the early 1900s, seeing organized games live was a privilege reserved for only wealthy men. With the introduction of the television in the 30s, and its subsequent mass adoption, women and children gained access to consuming professional sports in a way not possible before.
The implementation of Title IX in 1972 made organized sports even more accessible to women. Title IX mandated gender equality in educational opportunities, at a time when only 7% of high school athletes were female. Today, 42% of high school athletes are women, and folks who play sports as kids become disproportionately large consumers of sports content and memorabilia as they age.
The Changing Landscape
Female attendance at professional sporting events is increasing both nationally and internationally. Women's NFL apparel sales have tripled in the last four years, and last year, women were allowed to attend soccer matches in Saudi Arabia for the first time in the country’s history. Women’s teams have been successfully working to increase stadium attendance and investment, and the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team has set successive attendance records at standalone friendlies over the last 12 months. In short, it is long past time for professional sports stakeholders to adjust their marketing to cater to this demographic.
Women in the United States control billions of dollars annually in purchasing power. Not only do 40% of women out-earn their husbands, but women account for 85% of all consumer purchases. Women already purchase 46% of all official NFL merchandise, which makes sense because 45% of the NFL’s 185 million fans are women. 74.9% of women identified themselves as the primary shoppers for their households, and most strikingly, women control more than 60% of all personal wealth in the United States. As women engage with sports markets, they will bring their purchasing power with them.
Women’s influence on the sports industry is only going to increase over the coming years. Between the rise in viewership, the expansion of women’s professional teams, and increased authority over purchasing decisions, women have become a force to be reckoned with on the field and in the stands.
Nielson Consumer 2013
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Yankelovich Monitor & Greenfield Online
Compiled by Marketing to Women Conference (Including Yankelovich Monitor & Greenfield Online for Arnold’s Women’s Insight Team)
GFK MRI, Survey of the American Consumer 2011